Friday, August 19, 2011

Women and the power of word of mouth, plus a short Friday clip show

It may well be just coincidence, but I at least find it very interesting that three of the movies which have benefited most from good word of mouth this summer are all movies about and primarily starring women.

First up came "Bridesmaids," which had a very big opening and then just kept going as more and more dudes got the word that this isn't just a movie you have to be dragged to: It's so genuinely funny you can just go and enjoy it it thoroughly. And that has led to a seriously healthy domestic box office take of more than $167 million, and made genuine stars of Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy.

Next up came "Soul Surfer," which had a built-in audience from the start as a Christian flick, but slowly expanded beyond that as the word spread that the story of one-armed wonder Bethany Hamilton was inspiring no matter how you look at it, and the movie itself is just flat-out entertaining (I've seen it twice now, and it's again in my Netflix queue, so you can certainly count me as a champion of it.) "Soul Surfer" rode that wave to an outsized domestic box office take of more than $43 million (I actually thought it was a bit more than that.)

And now comes word that "The Help," the new movie about Southern maids in the '60s starring Viola Davis, Emma Stone and Octavia Spencer, is expected to remain atop the box office in its coming second week. Granted, its four new competitors - "Fright Night", "Conan the Barbarian", "One Day" and "Spy Kids: All the Time in the World" - are all pretty pathetic entries. Of them all, I might go see "Fright Night," only because the reviews so far are promising a fun and funky little flick, and Colin Farrell should be a hoot.

And as for "The Help," if you're worried about it at all, please let me reassure you: It is indeed a very faithful adaptation of the very definition of an Oprah Winfrey book club selection, but it's also genuinely moving and even more importantly, just very funny from start to finish. And on top of that, it's packed with first-rate performances from all the leads, plus a scene-stealing gem from Jessica Chastain, who is just a brilliant ball of comic energy as the delirious Celia Foote (and Chastain, who can be seen in the upcoming movie "The Debt" and, as you'll see from the trailer below, also "The Texas Killing Fields," is just having one heck of a good year.)

So, what is it about women and word of mouth? Perhaps they just trust each other more than us dudes do. I have no idea, but if it leads to more movies written and directed by, plus starring, women, I'm certainly all for it. 'Nuff said.

OK, that went on longer than I had intended, but it's a subject that fascinates me, so forgive me. After that today, there's just a bit of news about two people I always like to see, and then just a couple of clips.

First up, buried in a truly unfortunate report that Tony Scott, bereft of anything approaching an original thought, now has his sights set on remaking "The Wild Bunch," was word of something much more interesting he wants to cook up with The Dude.

Apparently before he butchers Sam Peckinpah's great Western, he has plans to make "Hell's Angels," a narrative history of the notorious motorcycle gang. Normally I'd kind of just say meh to that, but the movie, to be based both on the book by founding Angels member Sonny Barger and also incorporate aspects of Hunter S. Thompson's tome on the gang as well, would - if Scott gets his way - apparently star Jeff Bridges as Barger. Now you've got my attention. Stay tuned for more on this as soon as I can find it. ...

And finally today, before a couple of clips, Sarah Silverman has found a home at NBC, for a show that surely won't be as delightfully crude as her much-missed (at least by me, though I'm the only person I know who watched it) Comedy Central show, but should still deliver plenty of funny.

No idea if this will be in the fall lineup or be a midseason replacement, but the good news is that the show, starring Silverman as a woman readjusting to single life following a decadelong live-in relationship, will be co-written by the very funny comedienne and two of her "Sarah Silverman Show" co-conspirators, Dan Sterling and Jon Schroeder. Keep your fingers crossed that something genuinely funny comes from all this (I'm betting on yes.)

OK, now on to the clip show, starting with the first trailer I've seen for an upcoming true crime movie titled "Texas Killing Fields." With a name like that, I suppose it doesn't need too much of a plot description, but the flick starring Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chastain and definite Reel Fanatic fave Chloe Moretz, is about two cops who are on the trail of a prodigious serial killer who dumps his victims in the titular marsh dubbed the "killing fields." Moretz plays his latest potential victim, and though I suppose this could all somehow suck, I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, so I'm in. Keep an eye out for it in at least some American cities (though why in the world something like this would be limited is beyond me) in October, and enjoy the trailer below.



Finally today, though he's made one movie I just can't stand (and in fact couldn't even finish), "The Killer Inside Me," Michael Winterbottom has made many, many more that I love, chief among them "24-Hour Party People" and "Tristram Shandy." I missed his earlier entry this year, "The Trip," which just looked like a comedy treat with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, but now he's got another movie coming out just in time to be shown at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

As you'll see from the trailer below, "Trishna" stars the simply ravishing Freida Pinto in Winterbottom's adaptation of Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the D'Urbervilles." Not sure when this will have a U.S. release or when I'll ever be able to see it, but here's hoping it will be soon, because it looks fantastic. Enjoy the trailer, and have a great weekend. Peace out.

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